Social Entrepreneurship – the situation of Austria
Social entrepreneurship in Austria is still a young sector – around 80% of all initiatives are not older than 8 years. But they are growing constantly – as is the awareness about what social entrepreneurship is and how social innovation can contribute to societal development.
According to a recent study by the Vienna University of Economics and Business, there are around 300 social entrepreneurs to be found in Austria. An infrastructure to support them is also emerging, providing co-working spaces, consulting, training or access to networks of supporters.
Many individuals do not yet realise that they are in fact social entrepreneurs and that there is a new career pathway unfolding, which receives increasing public acknowledgement. That is why raising awareness about this new type of work and business model, entrepreneurial culture and new career opportunities is still very important.
Generating income on their own as well as gaining more financial independence is a major issue for Austrian social entrepreneurs. According to the Vienna university study, more than half (52%) of social entrepreneurs' budget comes from private funding, one-third comes from their own earnings, while roughly 10% come from federal sources.
Specific social venture funds do not yet exist in Austria. The financial sector, as well as the social entrepreneurs themselves, still need to capture the opportunities of social financing.
Countering the brain-drain:
The social entrepreneurs in Austria tackle a wide range of different issues. In the field of regional development there are new projects to counter the brain drain in rural areas by establishing regional innovation centres, giving people the necessary infrastructure to be innovative and creative and the possibility to start their own enterprises.
Inclusion of marginalised groups in mainstream society is a major focus of Austrian social entrepreneurs – Career Moves, for instance, connects people with disabilities with potential employers. Gregor Demblin, the founder, sees huge potential in people with disabilities, as they can be top performers, whose potential is not used due to societal prejudice.
Many young people in Austria do not yet realise that there is a new career path that combines entrepreneurial spirit with solving major social challenges.
These young aspiring talents have a very unique and fresh approach to deal with a multitude of social problems.
It is not just a lack of knowledge and access that inhibit young social entrepreneurs from starting their own initiative – they are often just afraid to take the risks of founding their own projects. It is crucial that in many Austrian schools students become more entrepreneurial, self-dependent and lose the fear of taking initiative.
Social entrepreneurship in Austria is still too young for us to grasp its scale and impact. Nevertheless, this movement has a lot of potential to bring about social change. One of the main challenges is the lack of support infrastructure outside the urban, densely populated areas. Focus should also be given to initiatives that encourage youth to become more involved and engaged in solving social problems. Competitions for young social entrepreneurs such as the Social Impact Award or the Join our Core competition clearly show that there is lot of potential among Austrian youth.
Young people no longer want to adapt to often rigid and uninspired structures in established organisations and companies. Instead, they would prefer to set up their own enterprises where they can live their values, be creative and shape the impact they want to have on society.